Vol. 4 Num 173 Mon. November 17, 2003  

I speak of the freedom of the pen

I write. I have a pen in my hand. I believe in the freedom of the pen. Pen is mightier than the sword. I believe in the freedom of thought, freedom of expression, freedom of the press, freedom of publication and so on. I believe in liberty, freedom and independence of a person, of people, of a state. I believe in the duty and obligation of each one of us to exercise this freedom.

I also believe no freedom is unconditional. Conditions make freedom real. Conditions give strength to freedom. Freedom without condition is not freedom but licence for anarchy.

Democracy is a government of the people, by the people, for the people. It's more than a definition, it describes the conditions of democracy. Independence is not a national flag, a state monogram and a national anthem.

Independence is that formal status of a nation where every form of freedom of each individual of people is recognised and exercised.

Freedom of individual is also conditional. This stems from the culture, civilisation, written or unwritten constitution and civil and criminal laws. Even how an individual dresses is conditional. You can get by with any dress that you can think however ludicrous they may look, but you will be restricted from walking the streets in the nude.

In the entire history of mankind there never was freedom without some form of conditions including freedom of the pen. In the name of freedom one cannot write whatever one feels like. If he/she writes disregarding the 'conditions' he/she destroys his/herself with his/her very pen.

Obscenity cannot get by in the name of freedom of the pen. No society, no nation, no civilized people will endorse obscene writings as freedom of expression.

One of the conditions of a free pen is that the user of a pen must be fully aware of whose cause his/her writing will serve. He/she must decide before using a pen whether in the name of freedom of pen he/she will be doing disservice to his/her people's and nation's dreams and struggles and fundamental beliefs.

In the name of freedom of expression, if anyone decides to wield his/her pen irresponsibly, I will describe his/her pen as chained. I will identify that chain as self-imposed. I will say repeatedly that he/she is chained by his/her own agenda of seeking more fame and so called glory. He/she perhaps will then be seeking greater publicity, bigger sale of his/her books, and so called laurels from the West. We the people of the third world know very well why West praises and dances around some of us.

Those of us who love, adore and make the dances are committing suicide. Men are born free but find him/herself chained afterwards. He/she must fight to be free. His/her first fight, as I see, is with one's own self.

This is to keep ourselves free from the trap and lure of fame, wealth, selfishness and pettiness. Even as he/she goes on talking about freedom of the pen, I would identify such person as gnanpapi -- a sinner who sins with full knowledge of it.

As a poet, playwright and novelist engaged in the business of writing for over fifty years, I would say those who think freedom of the pen is nothing but a licence, they are actually against the very grain of human achievements, against positive values and political struggle for emancipation of our people. What they would be, and are, doing is strengthening the hands of reactionary forces within the country and defaming the nation and her sons abroad.